Like South Carolina, Florida refuses to relocate inmates under Hurricane Michael
As Hurricane Michael makes it way through the Gulf Coast of Florida and North Carolina, evacuations are becoming more and more difficult for residents. But despite being located in mandatory evacuation zones, the Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) have not evacuated 15 state prisons.
The press secretary for the FDC, Patrick Manderfield stated in an email to the Orlando Weekly, “All Department evacuation determinations are made in the best interest of the inmates and public safety. Several factors are considered such as wind ratings, facility age, flooding history, etc. We have staff monitoring the storm 24 hours a day to ensure inmates and staff have safe, secure housing.”
In a press release, the FDC states that inmates are being relocated to other facilities and that the “safety of the public, FDC staff and inmates is paramount.”
Despite the announced relocation, the Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons claims that 15 prisons have not been evacuated. The list includes correctional facilities in Bay, Gulf, Jackson, Taylor, Wakulla and other counties. The group posted in an update that “the wife of a prisoner reports that ‘My husband is in Jefferson CI and they sandbagged all the entrances, they will leave the phones on all day today for them to keep in contact with us.’ She is advising him to tell everyone he knows to fill up anything they can with water.”
When Debbie Jones, the FDC administrator was asked about the Campaign’s claims, she said, “All necessary preparations have been made by the Department.”
Earlier this year, South Carolina came under fire for not relocating its inmates within mandatory evacuation zones as Hurricane Florence made its way. When two detained mental health patients, who were shackled inside a Sheriff’s van, drowned even as law deputies were rescued, many blamed law enforcement for their decision to transport detainees in dangerous weather. Similarly, many advocacy groups and concerned communities are skeptical of law enforcements’ judgments and care for prisoners in Florida, and are demanding more transparency.